TOMS RIVER, NJ - Over 60 Columbia High School Fine Arts students attended the 2017 NJ STate Teen Arts Festival, the only representatives from Essex County who participated at the statewide festival, according to James A. Manno, the Supervisor of Fine Arts for the South Orange Maplewood School District.

The festival, which took place in May at Ocean County College, is the statewide culminating celebration of the arts, which organizers describe as "dedicated to inspiring New Jersey teen artists, educators, professional artists and arts advocates from all across the state to unite as one grand and all-inclusive community."

Students are traditionally invited to the festival as a result of nominations by their home counties following a countywide arts festival, explained Manno. However, since Essex County has not hosted a county festival in many years, Manno provided digital portfolios in the areas of Film & Animation, String Ensemble (large and small), Vocal Ensemble (large), and Photography and Visual Arts to festival adjudicators for review.

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Even though this was a new form of submission for the festival, Manno stated that they were accommodating and that in the end, all of the portfolio entries from Columbia High School were rated" proficient to exemplary" by festival adjudicators, which meant not only that Columbia High School Fine Arts students were able to participate in the festival, but that they were the sole representatives from Essex County who attended.

In addition to celebrating the accomplishments of the state’s talented teen artists, the New Jersey State Teen Arts Festival also provides an opportunity for students to attend Master Class Workshops and for teachers to take professional development classes. 

In addition to future plans to return again to the New Jersey State Teen Arts Festival, Manno shared that he also hopes that an Essex County Teen Arts Festival can become an annual event, perhaps as early as the 2018-2019 school year. "We're working on this," said Manno, "we need approval and budget, and a group to run it, but things are in motion."